I should've turned and walked away when Carrie didn't answer the door. But I was on a mission, and my judgment at the time was less than sound.
Carrie was a lithe, blond Arkansan with a sweet demeanor and prom-queen looks. Instead of her, I was greeted by a large man wearing a dirty white T-shirt and bluejeans. He had a wild, uncombed Afro.
"What you want?" His eyes were bloodshot. His expression was suspicious. He was north of 6 feet tall and well over 200 pounds.
I checked the number on the door. The building was on Ninth Street NW, in the Shaw neighborhood. Carrie had said she'd be in unit No. 32 -- the same number I was looking at. "Maybe I've got the wrong place," I recall replying. "I'm looking for Carrie."
The man's expression softened. "Oh, you a friend of Carrie's? Awright then. She's inside, in the bathroom. She'll be out in a minute. Come on in."
He stepped aside and waved his arm like a car salesman inviting a mark into the showroom. The apartment appeared empty, save for a desk against the near wall and a worn sofa in the living area. His invitation hung in the air like gun smoke. A distant voice in my consciousness advised me to retreat. On the other hand, his explanation was plausible. And it was two days before Thanksgiving 1991. A little celebration was in order.
I took a step forward.
With stunning quickness, the man grabbed me by my shirt collar, yanked me inside the apartment and slammed the door shut. Before I could react, he gripped me by both shoulders, seizing the epaulets on my trench coat, and pinned me against the door. He called out a man's name. An older, reed-thin guy emerged from behind the sofa.
Keeping his hands on me, the big man looked over his shoulder and cried out: "Get the thing! Get the thing!"
The thing -- a gun or a knife.
A gun would be quick. A knife could be torturous.
"You don't have to do this," I offered.